Tolls, transponders and great salsa!

My experience so far in Orlando has been mixed. On the personal side, it has been much better than I could have expected. People in Orlando have been friendly and helpful. I was welcomed officially into the city last Sunday with a dinner invitation by Crystal, Nick, Nina and Stephen. Crystal is a coworker and friend to my girlfriend, Stephen is her boyfriend and Nick and Nina are their friends. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by my new friends that included a wonderful fresh mango and corn salsa. A big thank you to my new friends and a shout out for the wonderful mango and corn salsa!

Unfortunately my experience with bureaucracy started off on the wrong foot right off the bat. As some already know and some are about to find out, in order to efficiently travel through the city, drivers need to use toll roads. The driver can either pay at each cashier with cash or get a transponder and avoid the lines and save some money in the process. The day after I arrived in Orlando I dutifully purchased my transponder and attempted to activate it. For those interested, the transponder is available at Publix, a regional grocery chain, for about $26.00.

I tried to register through the toll-free number only to be told that the wait time was over a half-hour. Since it was late Friday afternoon, I figured I would wait until later in the evening to complete the process online. In the evening I entered my transponder code and filled my account with a credit card. The account status showed as active and I thought I was set to go.

I was wrong. Unbeknownst to me there are two systems in Orlando, the “SunPass” and the “Epass”. The transponder is supposed to work with both systems; unfortunately it does not notify the Epass system of my active status until three or more days later. Since I did not want to “violate” my first time in Orlando, and being the cautious person that I am, I went through one of the toll booths that indicate if your transponder is working. Mine was not. By the way, they no longer sell the older transponders that beeped when you went through a toll. There are no indicators on the transponder to tell you if it is working or not.

I called the 800 number once again and this time I was told that they were closed for the weekend and for immediate assistance I should go online. The problem is that the online site tells me that my transponder is good to go and has no messages about there being two systems; much less that one won’t work for days after activation. Not knowing any of this I assumed it was my transponder and therefore resigned to the fact that I was dependent on quarters and my girlfriend’s transponder until Monday.

After waiting for about half an hour on hold, the gentlemen that took my call, although nice enough, basically told me not to worry and that it would probably work now. Seventy-two hours had transpired already. All this could have been avoided with better customer care and relevant information posted on the website. SunPass spends considerable time trying to get you to do everything online yet they assume we all know that there are two systems in place in the Orlando area and one takes a while to synchronize. That would have saved me time, aggravation and quarters.

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